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Saving SNL

I grew up with Saturday Night Live, sometimes being allowed to watch the first half of it when I was young.  The comedy show first aired on October 11, 1975 and has since become one of the longest running shows on television.  Lorne Michaels is the brains behind the operation and sometimes gets 10 seconds of air time every now and again.  The show has turned out an impressive resume of actors, and I would even go as far to say the best show to launch an actor’s career.  Those include John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, and Amy Poehler.  The parodies are priceless and one can endlessly watch YouTube clips of the classics like Cowbell, Schwete Balls, and Jeopardy.  But more recently, the show has been struggling mightily.

While some of the struggles might be attributed to the ordeal of the Comcast purchase, this has been building for a while.  Michaels used to have to fight celebrities off with a stick when it came to selecting hosts, but now it seems like they screen his calls.  This is a total downer because if they asked me, I definitely would go (it’s on my bucket list).  Not to mention the musical performers they’ve been getting are brutal, especially recently (The Ting Tings, Them Crooked Vultures, Vampire Weekend).  Granted I might not be plugged into music mainstream but anyone with Ting, Vultures, or Vampires in their band name can’t be any good.

The show does have at least two solid stars, Kristen Wiig and Kenan Thompson.  Wiig has been in some movies and will probably be in more over the next few years.  Thompson hasn’t been in that many movies but his acting is so diverse on the show.  He has so many different characters and the majority of them are sure to be funny when airing.  The rest of the cast is pretty weak.  Some might say that Will Arnett and Fred Armisen are funny but they seem to be limited in what they can do.  Armisen’s impersonation of Obama isn’t that great, which makes for many a dull cold opening.  I know that Michaels and the other braintrust want to get new, fresh talent onto the show.  But you also need a strong core of reliable comics, which is really lacking.  Wiig and Thompson can’t be in every skit.  Not only do they need the supporting cast to step up, but they also have to be more imaginary.

This past week’s episode with Zach Galfianakis was absolutely painful.  The cold open got about two laughs and was an uncomfortable four minutes to watch.  Galfianakis did his job, he was somewhat funny.  Maybe invite some classic hosts like Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken.  At this point, the musical performances can’t get any worse and are used for extended bathroom breaks and grabbing another cocktail.  Bring back Amy Poehler and Tina Fey for a little bit, maybe some Weekend Update segments.  Go back to what got you to success…maybe even a Sarah Palin skit.  Things have to change drastically for SNL to become popular again.  The dropoff since the election wave they rode is significant.

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